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Surprise Pro Football Focus All-America honor helped put Brisker on the map

Photo by Penn State Athletics: Jaquan Brisker

The morning of Dec. 21 last year changed a lot of things for Jaquan Brisker. Prior to that morning, Brisker was thought of as a good player who had a nice season for Penn State, but really that was about it for the safety.

Brisker had been a third-team all-Big Ten selection by the league’s coaches, and the media only recognized him as honorable mention all-Big Ten. Again, pretty good, but nothing overly amazing.

Then, on Dec. 21, Pro Football Focus published its list of first-team All-Americans. Rather stunningly, Brisker was on the team.

Somehow, a third-team all-Big Ten selection had been chosen as a first-team All-American.

Someone must have made a mistake. Either it was the Big Ten coaches, who are supposed to recognize talent all over the field, even when fans and media don’t. Or, it was the folks at Pro Football Focus, who somehow had placed way too much value on Brisker’s play.

Here is what Pro Football Focus wrote about Brisker:

Brisker went from Lackawanna Community College to first-team PFF All-American in just two years.

No FBS safety recorded a better PFF grade while in the box, and Brisker quite easily displayed the best tackling of any player at the position, as he missed just one of his 60 tackle attempts on the year.

That strong tackling and play against the run down in the box, as well as his playmaking in coverage (seven play on the ball, five passing stops), led Brisker to a Power 5-best 85.6 PFF grade.

Clearly, the folks at Pro Football Focus loved what they had seen from Brisker. Even if casual fans, media and even the Big Ten coaches didn’t recognize it.


Whatever the case, that notoriety from Pro Football Focus put Brisker in a different discussion when it comes to Penn State’s players. No longer was he just a good player — a third-team all-conference player — but instead, with that one recognition from the industry leader in film study, Brisker found himself getting a whole lot more attention.

Was he surprised by the All-America honor?

“I wasn’t surprised at all,” Brisker said. “The film doesn’t lie. You watch the film, you watch every single game, I did my job, and I made the plays that came to me, whether that was in the passing game, the running game, all phases. It wasn’t a surprise to me.”

Look, most of us have no idea what the folks at Pro Football Focus are looking at when they analyze every single player across college football and the NFL. Some of PFF’s data is considered extremely valuable, but given that everything it does is really subjective to some degree, one has to wonder sometimes how the organization comes to all of its conclusions.

Take, for instance, Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford. No matter how much criticism one thinks Clifford deserves for his inconsistent play last season, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who believes that he is the 88th best quarterback in college football this year.

Oh, but that’s exactly where Pro Football Focus ranked him — at No. 88.

Is Clifford really that bad? Hey, that’s what the film showed the people at Pro Football Focus.

Is Brisker really that good, that he deserved first-team All-America honors? Again, that’s apparently what the film showed.

Regardless, having a first-team All-America distinction — no matter where it’s from — will put any player on the map. Even if some people hadn’t fully noticed him before, which was probably the case with Brisker last year.

“Yes, I agree with that,” Brisker said when asked if he was overlooked. “To that point, I just felt like I finally got the recognition for my hard work on and off the field.”

With great awards comes great recognition, and Brisker definitely has that entering his senior season.

“We really, as a football team, as a defense and as myself, we really don’t focus on individual accolades,” he said. “But at the same time, when you get things like that, it builds up your confidence.”

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